Continental Drifter by Kathy MacLeod

Kathy MacLeod talks about belonging in her new middle grade graphic memoir, Continental Drifter.

Kathy has spent most of her life feeling like she’s stuck between two different worlds. Kathy has a Thai mother and an American father, so she’s always felt like she doesn’t quite belong 100% with either group of people. Kathy and her family spend most of the year living in Bangkok. Her father, mother, older sister, and herself all have their own separate corners of the house, seldom spending time together as a family. Her mother works long hours, while her father is retired from the military, but set in his ways. Kathy has a secret though: she’s counting down the days until summer vacation! They are heading back to Maine for the summer to a tiny seaside town where they will visit family, eat local delicacies, and travel the area. Kathy is most excited about going to her first summer camp this year!

Kathy has big hopes that this summer will be when she finally fits in and makes friends. Writing in her diary, she outlines everything she wants to do as well as how she wants her summer to happen. As she and her family leave Bangkok for the twenty-four hour travel journey to Maine, Kathy finds herself getting nervous, but also excited to see what the summer has to offer.

When Kathy arrives at summer camp, she realizes it is nothing what she expected. No matter what she does. she struggles to fit in. She doesn’t look like the other kids and doesn’t know all the pop culture references. Kathy desperately wants to find a place where she fits in. Having pinned all her hopes on this summer camp, she is devastated when she doesn’t instantly click or feel that sense of belonging. If she doesn’t belong in America or Thailand, where will she find her place?

This graphic memoir captures the uneasiness of identity that almost all middle grade children go through. Adding on top of that summer camp insecurities and the challenges of making new friends, both at home and abroad, and the author has written a relatable heart-rending story of how feeling like you don’t belong can impact your life. The art style was also very cute and relatable to the life of an 11-year-old girl. This was a thoughtful read that walks readers trough feelings of ‘otherness’. Continental Drifter doesn’t end perfectly with everyone miraculously fixed and places found, instead it gives readers roads through which to go on their own journey of self-discovery.

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